Merkel criticizes Turkey over press freedom

Merkel criticizes Turkey over press freedom

Merkel criticizes Turkey over press freedom

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the international media conference M100 Sanssouci Colloquium in Potsdam, eastern Germany on September 15, 2016. AFP photo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Turkey over press freedom, at an award ceremony of the Sanssouci Colloquium held in Germany’s Potsdam. Merkel mentioned the former editor-in-chief of the daily Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar, during her speech, as she stressed the significance of press freedom. 

Saying that press freedom should be defended every time, Merkel noted that press freedom was outside the boundaries of state control and censorship, adding that journalists should be able to report on corruption without being subjected to fear and tracking.

Dündar and Cumhuriyet Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül faced trial for “leaking state secrets” due to stories they published about Turkish intelligence trucks allegedly bound for Syria with hidden weapons in early 2014. 

During the ceremony, Italian writer Roberto Saviano, who is well known for his stance against the mafia, received the M100 Media award, which he dedicated to two brothers under detention in Turkey, Ahmet Altan, a journalist and Prof. Mehmet Altan, an academic and columnist.

Saviano, who defended that Turkey should become a member of the European Union, said that the situation of the Altan brothers would closely concern them if Turkey were an EU member.

In addition, Dündar, who participated in the ceremony, noted that at least 220 journalists were jailed in Turkey. 

Meanwhile, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan wrote letters while under detention. The Altan brothers criticized the charges against them in their letters, which were released to the press via their lawyers.

“We were detained for giving subliminal messages suggesting a military coup on a TV program. A conscious [individual] who can allege this can also allege that we talk to aliens or fly like Superman in the sky using our magnetic powers,” Ahmet Altan wrote in his letter, adding that the charges against them will “definitely go down in history.”

“However, it is hard to know if it will be in the history of comedy or law,” he also wrote.  

Ahmet Altan, a novelist and former editor-in-chief of daily Taraf, is also on trial along with his colleagues for “leaking state secrets” for stories on an alleged coup plan by the Turkish military.